Tales of the Zombie 1, 1973 “The Altar of the Damned!”

It took me quite a while, but I finally completed this series of magazines. One and four were pretty tough to find in my budget, as was the Annual, but it finally happened! This first issue is quite a treat, as it features not only super cool stories, but incredible artwork as well. Of course, the lead feature and star of the series, Simon Garth, the Zombie, is an interesting character. His stories slightly mirror that of the Man-Thing, because of one simple reason- he cannot speak. Not an easy task for any writer, but if anybody is up for it, Steve Gerber is the writer. Let us begin with an amazing cover by Boris Vallejo!

The zombie stories in this magazines are three-fold. The first, “Altar of the Damned,” shows the second appearance of the character in comics. In this one, we see voodoo rituals, and some sleazy guy (“Gyps“) controlling the whole thing in order to get control of Simon Garth. This story (art by John Buscema and Tom Palmer) serves as sort of a precursor to the second story, which is actually the very first appearance of the character (Zombie! A Man Without a Soul! in Menace 5, 1953, story by Stan Lee and art by Bill Everett). So, in short, they did a retroactive continuity (retcon) story to flesh out the character for the readers. Not a bad idea, but one that has been beaten like a dead horse since (especially in more modern comics).

Next up is a reprint from the Golden Age (Journey into Mystery 1, 1952). “Iron-Head” is a story about a seedy guy that does whatever he can to survive, including murder for money! He spends time on a ship, diving for treasure, but then gets the idea that he can take out the middle men and have all the money for himself! He blows up the ship, and gets the last but most lucrative chest for himself. He then makes his way to a nearby island, but the local natives aren’t very kind to strangers! Art by Dick Ayers!

The Thing from the Bog!,” is a visually stunning work by artist Pablo Marcos, and the story by Marv Wolfman isn’t half bad either! We see a rotting corpse rise the from the bog, a witch casting a spell, and her untimely death! But her death was not in vain, as we see her “people” slowly rise from their graves! The last page of this story is nothing short of heart-wrenching, and deserving!

There is also a quick little two page story by horror master Tom Sutton! “Mastermind” is a Frankenstein’s Monster homage that has the good doctor regretting his action almost immediately!

The bookend story for Simon Garth, “Night of the Walking Dead!,” picks up where the first half left off, as the sleazy Gyps is dead, and Donna Garth identifies him for the coroner. She then obtains the voodoo coin from the police, and immediately gets a bad feeling. Meanwhile, in the graveyard, we see something or someone, stirring. Simon Garth rises from his grave, and is attacked by a dog (with a hunter). He kills the animal brutally, then makes his way towards the coin, as if its calling to him. Written by Steve “Baby” Gerber, art by “Big” John Buscema and Syd Shores.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tales to Astonish 5 and 6, 1980 “Tiger Shark!”

For obvious reasons, I don’t own a lot of first appearances of characters from the Golden and Silver Ages. But, reprints are a good way to get your hands on that material without breaking the bank. Case in point, Tales to Astonish, starring the Sub-Mariner! In these two issues we get the first appearance of one of his greatest foes, Tiger Shark!

In issue five, we catch up with Namor, as he’s trying to find his way to NYC and Reed Richards for help. He barely makes it to land, then is accosted by a robot. He destroys it, but in doing so causes it to explode, and coupled with his fatigue from fight Attuma (in the previous issue, he’s knocked unconscious. He awakens to see a beautiful woman, and then his captor reveals himself. It’s a mad scientist guy named…Dr. Dorcas (yeah, I know). He’s put a metal vest on Subby, that he can use to control him through electrocution. Next, we see his sinister plot, as we meet Todd Arliss, a once promising swimmer that had an accident. He was promised to be healed by Dr. Dorcas, but for a price. The Doctor then straps Subby into a machine, and runs wires to Todd and then a tank full of sharks! The switch is thrown, and Tiger Shark is born!

At the end of issue five, Tiger Shark got the upper hand on Subby, and not only knocked him out for a brief minute, but was also able to kidnap Lady Dorma as well (she appeared out of nowhere near the base, after Subby thought her dead in the previous issue)! Diane Arliss (Tiger Sharks sister), comes to the aid of Subby, but he initially thinks it’s Tiger Shark, and knocks her out. He swims to the surface and finds Dr. Dorcas, head bandaged and looking weary. He tells him to treat her wounds and that he’s know going after her brother. The two then have a showdown in front of all of Atlantis to see who will rule!

In 1968 (when these stories were first printed), Roy Thomas (writer) was really cementing himself as the heir apparent to Stan Lee as Marvel’s premiere writer/editor-to-be. This story has a ton of gravitas, and really pulls you into the world of Namor. Yeah, the guy can be a huge, arrogant jerk, but he does have a code of honor, and will fight for his people and justice. He obviously wasn’t written in 1968 to have the best manners towards the ladies, but I think we can all agree it wasn’t written that way with malicious intent. Issue five has art by “Big” John Buscema and Frank Giacoia (inks), and is all sorts of awesome, but in truth, the following issue has Big John penciling again, but Dan Adkins on inks, and looks a good bit superior. Letters by Sam Rosen (5), and Irv Watanabe (6) and colors by Bob Sharen (not originally but in the reprint).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marvel Tales 59 and 60 (ASM 78 and 79, 1969) “The Prowler!”

For some reason I had an itch to spotlight my favorite childhood superhero, Spider-Man. Reruns of the 1968 cartoon, plus the live action show (starring Nicholas Hammond), fueled my love for superheroes (along with Wonder Woman and The Hulk TV shows). Once 1981 rolled around, another cartoon hit the airwaves, and I was fully immersed in wanting to be Spider-Man when I grew up! It’s true. Not an astronaut, doctor, or lawyer, I wanted to be a superhero and Spidey was my favorite among them all.

Peter Parker (and Spidey) has gone through some very tumultuous times, and some mundane ones as well. My favorite era is definitely the late Silver and Bronze Ages, and in particular the the period of Stan Lee writing, then handing off to Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway. The likes of “Big” John Buscema, John Romita, and Gil Kane penciling. These creators took Spidey to new heights, and new lows (personally), and he would never be the same again. These stories are nothing short of fantastic, and the new characters brought in were a big part of the book’s success.

In these two issues, we see the introduction of a new villain called The Prowler. At first, the story seems to just be about a kid with problems that just can’t find any answers in life. But honestly, the two issues are more about Peter and his relationships and insecurities when it comes to the women in his life. He sees Gwen in a restaurant talking to Flash Thompson, and immediately assumes she’s stepping out on him. She’s actually trying to find out what’s been bothering Peter lately, and knows that Flash has known Peter longer than her, so he might be able to give her some insight. Some really good moments in these two issues of not only action, but humor, and real pathos!

I know a lot of people decry Stan Lee‘s (writer) writing, but honestly, he knew how to write Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Throw in the brilliant pencils of “Big” John Buscema and the inks of Jim “Madman” Mooney, and you can’t deny the power of this title during this period (post Ditko). Letters by Sam Rosen, and two amazing covers by “Jazzy” John Romita!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower of Shadows 1, 1969 “At the Stroke of Midnight!”

After searching far and wide for an affordable copy of this book, I found it at a small show for a few bucks. The guy I bought it from actually gave me a deal on multiple books, so the price was definitely right. I already knew some of the contents, and was pumped to read it. When the first story of the book has work by a legendary creator, you know it’s gonna be a good time. Honestly, the entire book is filled with giants of the industry. The cover is by “Jazzy” John Romita!

Right out of the gate, you get “At the Stroke of Midnight.” This one has been reprinted a couple of times, and once you check it out, you can see why. A creepy tale about a haunted castle, brought to us solely by Jim Steranko! He wrote, drew, and colored this amazing story! As usual, Steranko sets a mood immediately, and this is one of his calling cards when creating a comic book. He knew exactly what he wanted to convey to the reader, and executed it flawlessly.

The second tale in this nightmarish book (“From Beyond the Brink!“) is one by a classic horror artist that worked for the best in the biz at the genre. Johnny Craig was a mainstay at E.C. comics during their heyday (pre-Wertham, and the Senate hearings of the 1950s). What’s astonishing is that not only was he the artist, but also the writer of this one. A story that involves a man that attempts to expose mediums for the fakes they are, but a twist ending is chilling!

Lastly, Digger introduces us to “A Time to Die!” This one brought to you by Stan Lee (script) and “Big” John Buscema (art), and involves an old scientist that wants to find an elixir that will allow him to live forever. The scientist has an assistant that also has eyes on the elixir! No matter what the genre, John Buscema always looks like a pro. His skills are unparalleled in the Bronze Age.

 

 

Rampaging Hulk 1, 1977 “The Krylorian Conspiracy!” and “Trail of the StarStone!”

It’s always cool to get a good deal on a comic/magazine. It’s even better when it’s a “Pulse-Pounding First Issue!” Admittedly, this post is sort of a continuation from last week, as the back up story in this magazine is the next chapter in the comic book life of a certain monster hunter. But that’s for later, as first, we must see what’s going on in the life of the Jade Giant, The Hulk!

The firs story in this incredible mag is a tale of the Hulk and Rick Jones, as they investigate an alleged flying saucer in Spain! We actually get a re-telling of the Hulk’s origin first (in a couple of glorious pages), then the main story. We see everything you could want in this one. Betty, Thunderbolt Ross, Rick Jones, The Gargoyle, an alien and of course the Hulk (and puny Banner)! This one has a good story by Doug Moench, and incredible artwork by Walt Simonson (pencils) and Alfredo Alcala (inks)!

The second tale involves that monster hunting madman, Ulysses Bloodstone! Last week’s post familiarized you (hopefully) with the character, now see him in all his glory as he battles aliens that have come to…do…something! No, really, it’s more of a continuation of his search for answers, and then being attacked by a giant lizard creature and his old nemesis,  Ulluxy’l. Special guest appearance by Killer Shrike! Written by John Warner, art by “Big” John Buscema (breakdowns) and Rudy Nebres (finishes)! The incredible cover is by Ken Barr (one of the best painted covers of the entire series!).

 

 

Marvel Preview 22, 1980 “The Quest of the King”

The recent search for Marvel black and white magazines from the Bronze Age, has brought some interesting books to the forefront on the blog. The cover, being so awesome and naming the creative team was all it took. There’s also a fascination with Arthurian lore for sure, and quite honestly, isn’t everyone a part of that enthralling genre?

An adventure story involving knights, magic, and everything else you can think of is inside this book! Most mags from this era have multiple stories in them, but not here. This one is so strong it runs fifty-five pages long, and each one is a masterpiece by the creative team.

Speaking of the creative team, the familiar names from the ages are front and center. The artwork is off the charts in this book and we have Big John Buscema (pencils), and the inking team of Tom Palmer and John Tartaglione to thank. The story is by Doug Moench (script) and John Buscema as well! Not to be left off the list, is letterer John Costanza, who does a magnificent job on this one (calligraphy).

 

 

Marvel Treasury Special – Giant Superhero Holiday Grab-Bag (1974)

Is there anything more awesome than the over-sized comic book? Of course not, and Marvel comics lead the way in spectacular fashion in the 1970s in the form of the Treasury Edition! And not only just a Treasury Edition, but a holiday edition! Now, just for the record, only two of the stories inside actually have a Christmas theme, but hey, let’s not get picky!

The first story is probably the best “holiday” centered of the entire book. We see Spidey and the Human Torch take on the Sandman! It’s Christmas time, and the Sandman is looking to wrap up the two heroes…or is he (Roy Thomas, writer – Ross Andru, pencils – Mike Esposito, inks – and Artie Simek, letters)? Next, a classic tale from the Silver Age, as the arrogant Submariner decides to go to the surface world. Once there, he speaks with a lawyer about wanting to sue the entire human race. Too bad for him that lawyer is none other than Matt Murdoch, A.K.A. Daredevil (story by Stan Lee, art by Wally Wood, and letters by Artie Simek). The third tale is the other holiday adjacent one in the book. It’s all about the Black Widow, and her man-servant, Ivan! They’re here to help a young man that tried to commit suicide, and then see if they can get him help (written by Roy Thomas, art by Gene Colan and Bill Everett, letters by Artie Simek). The last two issues are from the Fantastic Four and a crossover with the Avengers! Not much along the lines of holiday cheer, but a cool story nonetheless (of course, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!)!

 

 

Conan the Barbarian 102 and 103, 1979 “The Men Who Drink Blood!”

The character Conan, created by Robert E. Howard, is one that some feel can be a little one note, but Howard and those that followed did a great job in changing the surroundings, supporting cast, and opponents for the Cimmerian brawler. Case in point, these two issues where Conan must fight a vampire and his clan of razor-toothed warriors!

At this point, Conan has lost his love, Bêlit (she died in issue #100), and he has taken up residence with the Bamula Tribe (and become their chieftain), who is at war with the Kungado Tribe. Conan and his mates are viciously attacked by another tribe, called the Drelliks. These men are, in appearance at least, vampires! It’s going to take every ounce of strength and cunning for Conan to defeat these monsters!

One of the best reasons you can find to read these stories is of course, the creative team. Roy Thomas (writer), was the man at Marvel responsible for them acquiring the rights to print these incredible stories. Marvel then made the great decision to have first Barry Windsor-Smith, then ‘Big’ John Buscema create the visuals for these incredible books. His command of anatomy, ability to convey feelings through body language, and settings. His skills as a penciller are right at the top of the all time greats. Inking this legendary man, is Ernie Chan, who was the perfect fit for Buscema’s pencils, and the work shows it. Add George Roussos on colors, and Joe Rosen on letters, and the perfect comic book series is complete! The covers are both penciled by John Buscema, with the first inked by Al Milgrom, and the second by Bob McLeod.

 

Dracula Lives! 3, 1973 “Prince of Darkness, City of Light!

Is there a more iconic horror figure than Dracula? Probably not, and after acquiring another issue of this spooky mag, it’s time to dive into it! October is here, and the horror mags from the Bronze Age are a great way to celebrate the season. Vampires, witches, a gargoyle, and Solomon Kane! A great issue for sure that brings a solid spotlight on Dracula not only in the Marvel universe, but also in contemporary fiction and film.

The Dracula story is one that dives into the history of the character in reference to the actual continuity of the Marvel Universe (written by Marv Wolfman, and art by ‘Big’ John Buscema and Syd Shores). A battle with another vampire, Nimrod, to be specific, who was the previous lord of the undead. The second story is a reprint from the 1950s. It involves a vampire and a slasher, à la Jack the Ripper (art by Larry Woromay). This story is followed by a great puff piece about Bela Lugosi with some fantastic photos from his films (written by Doug Moench).

Next we have what is probably the best piece of the book. A story about a chance encounter between Dracula and the sword wielding Puritan, Solomon Kane (written by Roy Thomas, with art by Alan Weiss and the Crusty Bunkers)! Another reprint from the Atlas era follows with an interesting take on the Shakespeare story Macbeth (art by C. A. Winter).  Finally, we get a super story about Dracula in Paris, and this time he must do battle with a stone gargoyle (written by Gerry Conway, and art by Alfonso Font)! There is also a neat story by Chris Claremont that features some love for Hammer studios! All of this is kicked off by a wonderful painted cover by Neal Adams!

 

Marvel Treasury Edition 21, 1979 “Behold…Galactus!”

The Treasury Edition is one of the best inventions in comic books. I mean, what could be better, than an oversized comic book? The answer is nothing. When you buy these gigantic books and open them up you get blinded by their awesomeness! Although mostly reprints, the material chosen is top-notch for sure.

Of course, the Fantastic Four are most famous because of their days during the Jack Kirby/Stan Lee era, as it should be. But honestly, if you venture past that era, you’ll find that the Bronze Age is quite good. Under the guidance of some of that era’s best creators, the team had some run-ins with a myriad of bizarre villains, but also some familiar ones like the Mole Man, the Impossible Man, and most importantly, Galactus!

In this oversized tome, the team is beset by gun-toting maniacs, a strange being from the stars with god-like powers, and then the final threat is revealed, and the team stands in awe of Galactus, Devourer of Worlds! Special appearance by the Silver Surfer!

Let it not be said that any era of the FF is greater than the original creators run on the book, but honestly, too much love is given to the John Byrne era and not because it’s bad, but because it causes people to overlook this incredibly underrated work by Stan Lee (writer), ‘Big’ John Buscema (pencils), ‘Joltin’ Joe Sinnott (inks),  Carl Gafford (colors), and Artie Simek, John Costanza, and Sam Rosen (letters). The cover is by Bob Budiansky and Bob McLeod, and they did a great job showing just how imposing the big G is (front and back covers!).

***note- apologies for the quality of the images. I had to use what I could find online because my scanner isn’t big enough to accommodate a Treasury comic book.